A Guide to Chito Martinez: Belize’s First MLB Player
No-one can deny that sports play a huge role in Belizean culture. While the nation has never been associated with the finest sporting teams in the world, it has been the proud home of some of the biggest and best players.
For example, pro-basketball player Nigel Miguel, boxer Ludwig Lightburn, and athlete Marion Jones all hail from Belize. However, the nation’s pride and joy of baseball is, undoubtedly, Reyenaldo Ignacio “Chito” Martinez, who was the first player from Belize to reach the MLB.
The Baltimore Orioles
Chito Martinez only played for one baseball team throughout his MLB career, which was the Baltimore Orioles, playing 158 games in total from 1991 to 1993 as an outfielder.
After participating in 750 minor league games for six years, this was Chito’s shot at the big time and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands as soon as he arrived onto the MLB field.
While he may have only played for three seasons, he managed to record a hit in his first six MLB games at the age of 25-years-old, offering the type of power and skill that would make the Orioles the favorite in the current American League.
At the time, he had the best arm among his fellow team’s outfielders, with many believing his sporting power was in his bat speed. However, he also shown an in-depth knowledge of the sport, which he applied to his performance.
According to John Oates, the Orioles’ manager in the early 90s: “He’s one of these guys who, when you sit back and listen to him, you can tell he knows what he’s talking about. He thinks. He has a game plan.”
The Rise to Fame
While many Belizeans proudly supported Chito during his time in the MLB, he didn’t hone his craft in his home nation. He attended high school in New Orleans, which provided him with an opportunity to showcase his sporting talent to the world. As a result, he was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in Major League Baseball in 1984. While he never came close to the MLB when he joined minor league baseball, he signed to Baltimore in 1990, hitting 13 home runs in his rookie season.
Not only did he represent his country each time he stepped onto the field, but he proved to many people back home that it was possible to come from a third-world country and make it into one of the biggest sporting leagues in the world.
Caption: Baltimore Orioles
The End of His MLB Career
Despite recording a hit in his first six MLB games, which were a career highlight for Chito, his power eventually waned by 1992. While he appeared in eight games during the 1993 season for the Baltimore Orioles, his major league baseball career soon came to an end, but he was a superstar in the eyes of Belizeans. After all, he had secured the most home runs in the International League.
Not only was sporting talent running through his veins, but Chito Martinez passed his gift onto his son, Drew. After attending the University of Memphis, he was chosen to join the respected New York Mets minor baseball league draft in 2010 following his sophomore year. He was then picked to join the Los Angeles Angel in 2011.
Belize and Baseball
While Chito Martinez may have flown the flag for Belize in major league baseball, many Belizeans will struggle to follow in his footsteps due to the lack of sporting opportunities in comparison to other Caribbean locations. It’s for this reason that there is no Belize player currently in the MLB, yet the likes of Mexico, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Cuba and Puerto Rico all have players in the major leagues.
What’s more, unlike Chito, who gained recognition for his sporting talent in New Orleans, it is harder for locals to be scouted for their ability. As Belize is only home to 400,000 inhabitants, many Major League baseball teams will look to bigger countries when seeking talent.